NYC Registered Dietitian and Personal Trainer Discusses Being Under the Influence

Big Concerns About Social Media Influencers Providing Bad Weight Management Information

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Follower beware!

Ten years ago, we couldn’t have imagined the power of social media. Now, we know social media can influence everything from election outcomes to how we raise our kids. Google has over 130 trillion websites. Facebook has over 2.3 billion users, Instagram 1 bn users, and the beast just keeps growing. The buzz word now is influencer. Charisma, likeability, and popularity have replaced credibility. 

With hundreds of thousands of followers, top social media influencers are providing really bad weight management information. Weight loss is a billion-dollar industry. Before, profits were relegated to trendy diets, books, gym memberships. Now weight-obsessed celebrities and unqualified “nutritionists”  are cashing in via blogs, YouTube, and Instagram. Bad advice is just a click away. Before and after pics abound with meticulous documentation of weight loss tactics.

Followers who adhere to this bad advice – much of it is not only bad but downright dangerous – are paying a pretty hefty toll. Their health.  So, how do we know who to trust? I’ve created a litmus test on how to determine whose advice to follow.

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  1. What are their credentials? Would you sky-dive with somebody who’s never done it before but just watched a lot of videos and had one successful diving experience? Ask yourself, then, why you’d put your health in the hands of someone without the right credentials. What to look for:
    1. Nutritionist is a non-accredited title. Basically, “anybody” can be a nutritionist. Look for “registered nutritionist”. Ask about coursework and accredited qualifications. Anybody can slap “nutritionist” on their name after a six-week online course.
    2. A registered dietitian is a nutrition and food specialist with a bachelor’s degree who is licensed by the Commission on Dietetic Registration. Every dietitian is a nutritionist, but not vice-versa.
  2. Check sources. Is nutrition advice backed by credible sources? Some solid ones to look for are Nutrition Action, Harvard Health, peer-reviewed nutrition journals including American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Annual Review of Nutrition among others. Popular magazines like O, The Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Women’s Health are not places to get solid information about nutrition unless said articles are backed by sources mentioned above. Hold your influencers to a high standard. Sloppy research = sloppy advice.
  3. No Diet IconIs the focus weight loss? Diet fads and focusing on weight loss is simply bad nutrition advice. You all know how I feel about “diets”. Any good advice will focus on building a healthy relationship with your body and food.
  4. What is their bias? Kim Kardashian purportedly gets $500,000.00 US for any kind of product push on her social media accounts. Which products are influencers pushing? Why? Weight watchers? The Keto Craze? Detox teas? Juice cleanses? Shakes? What’s their agenda? They’re not just flashing brands because they really love them. They get paid A LOT to endorse products. Remember The Truman Show? Got it? Again, follower beware. 
  5. No skipping meals, cheat days or the famous 52. Our bodies need fuel. Our brains need fuel. As soon as someone brags about cleansing for a week to fit in a dress or indulging in a “cheat meal” … that’s a red flag. Unfollow! Not only are they not smart (buy a bigger dress!), they’re spreading dangerous ideas and body hate. Influencers should be building people up, not tearing themselves (and others) down.
  6. Beware of “onesize-fits-all” advice. It’s simply bad. Everybody’s body is different. Everybody’s needs are different. Not one thing works for everybody. If so, this wouldn’t be a billion-dollar industry.
  7. Do not follow any celebrity weight-loss advice. None. Zero. Zip. Period. (Unless, of course, they are your personal registered dietitian, have done an individualized evaluation for you, and created a nutrition and exercise plan based on your individual needs.)

When our kids are sick, we don’t scour Instagram for advice. Why, then, have we left the most important thing in the hands of others that simply are not qualified – our health? Always consult with your healthcare professional before diving into any radical nutritional and/or exercise changes. Your health depends on it.